By Stuart Mark
There is little doubt that the ability to work flexibly has changed the nature of work; technology has aided this by supporting remote working as well as a myriad of other “non-traditional” working patterns. Increasingly, work is a “thing you do”, and not just a “place you go”. This trend is reflected in our own business and in recent years we have certainly seen an increase in the number of employees working more flexibly at Cundall.
We have spoken to a number of employees around the business to hear their experiences of flexible working at Cundall.
What prompted your decision to work more flexibly? / Why are flexible work hours important to you?
We have twin boys (18 months old) and we wanted to try and avoid leaving them at nursery for the majority of the working week. We were keen to be around for as much of their development as possible and childcare costs for twins are horrendous! My wife and I both work and wanted to share childcare responsibilities so that we could both continue to progress in our careers, instead of one of us having to stop work or reduce hours to a point where it would be difficult to continue with our current roles.
How did Cundall support you in making the change? / How does Cundall support you as a flexible worker?
I had initial discussions with my line manager and discipline partner to establish whether reduced working hours would be feasible. I discussed with them ideas I had to limit the impact on the business, project deliverables and my team. My team support me by having to become more involved in the running of projects and my line manager and partners help by attending key meetings if I am not at work (if they cannot be moved). They stay more involved with the detailed running of projects to ensure that any urgent issues that crop up when I am not in the office can be resolved or progressed.
What is your flexible work arrangement at Cundall?
I work four 7.5 hour days a week (80% of a full time role). I don’t work Wednesdays – this was chosen to try and reduce the impact on my team, as we tend to plan the weeks’ work on a Monday and Friday often ends up being a date for issuing information so Wednesday seemed like the most appropriate choice.
As a flexible worker do you feel that you have the same opportunities for training, development and promotion as someone who works regular hours and has the same ability and experience?
In short, yes.
What challenges have you encountered as a flexible worker? How have/do you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges has been the external perception that we all should work 5 days a week. I overcome this by making people aware of my working arrangements at early stages of projects and also ensuring the rest of my team are involved (through emails, phone calls, meetings) so that external parties know that I am not the only one that can help. I always try to persuade them to arrange meeting schedules to suit my working hours but, if this isn’t possible, sometimes I need to arrange alternative cover.
The other main challenge I’ve found is the expectation of clients to respond to issues quickly, irrespective of my working arrangement. I work hard to reinforce my working arrangements and ensure my team are more involved in the overall running in projects, rather than individual tasks, so that they can respond to queries that do arise.
How do you communicate with your team? / How do you keep in touch with team and project developments?
We use a lot of different communication methods. I have informal discussions with each of my team every day and we have a formal meeting every week. We use OneNote to electronically share and update ‘to-do’ and priority lists. I also keep my team copied in on project correspondence so they are aware of what’s going on. I make my team aware of the bigger picture on projects so that they are aware of what is going on, even if not directly involved. I use call forwarding features on our telephone system (Skype for business) to ensure my team can answer my phone if I am not in the office.
In the rare event of something cropping up when I am not in the office, my team all have my phone number so can talk to me. Sometimes a 5 minute phone call can save the team a lot of work but this has only happened once in 5 months which is encouraging. My team will always liaise with external clients when I am out of the office. It is important that my team know I can help them out if something urgent comes up but it is also important that external clients know that I am not available 5 days a week.
Are you the only member of your team working flexibly? If not, how do you ensure you are both/all up to date on projects etc?
Yes, the rest of my team work full time, albeit one of my team goes to University one day a week. We are in the office together 3 days a week and we ensure we catch up before each of us is out of the office so we know what is needed.
How has flexible working benefited you in terms of the impact on your personal life?
Personally, it is great to be able to take a more active role in looking after my children and their development. Our family life feels a lot better balanced knowing that we don’t need to send them to nursery for another day. The difference between working full time and seeing them mostly on weekends, and looking after them for one more day is huge.
Do you think the ability to work flexibly has made you better at your role at Cundall? If so, how?
It has certainly put a lot more focus on improving my management skills as I need to be very organised to ensure project delivery doesn’t suffer and so that my team are clear on work priorities and are working most efficiently.